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Uprisings Everywhere: Activism Spreads to China, the Arctic

Given the hollowed-out state of our politics and the dubious ability to seek justice and accountability through the courts, the streets are increasingly the only refuge for change. We’ve seen the Arab world erupt and tangible changes come to pass in a few countries as a result of their uprising. But this isn’t localized. In Shanghai, China, truck drivers protested for a third straight day, with a legitimate economic impact to their action.

Striking truck drivers protested for a third day on Friday in Shanghai’s main harbour district amid heavy police presence and signs the action has already started to curb exports from the world’s busiest container port […]

A crowd of up to 600 people milled about outside an office of a logistics company near the Baoshan Port, one of the city’s ports. Some threw rocks at trucks whose drivers had not joined in the strikes, breaking the windows of at least one truck.

The strikers, many of them independent contractors who carry goods to and from the port, stopped work on Wednesday demanding the government do something about high fuel costs and what some called high fees charged by logistics firms, said the drivers, who clashed with police on Thursday.

China is especially wary about threats to social stability following online calls for Middle East-inspired “Jasmine Revolution” protests and has detained dozens of dissidents, including renowned artist Ai Weiwei.

This isn’t a formal labor action, just something started by truck drivers who saw their livelihoods slipping away with rising fuel costs and exploitation. It’s a sign that Chinese economic growth may not be totally sustainable if it has to be built on the backs of their workers. The truck drivers organized completely through word of mouth.

An even more fascinating situation is playing out on the seas.

The fight to stop the global oil industry exploring the pristine deep waters of the Arctic has been dubbed the new cold war, and early on Friday it escalated as environmental activists from 12 countries occupied the world’s second largest rig on its way from Turkey to Greenland to drill among the icebergs.

The protesters found the 52,000-tonne semi-submersible platform Leiv Eiriksson at around midnight, steaming due west at a stately six knots in the sea of Marmara, heading for the Dardanelle straits and the open Mediterranean. It took four more hours for Greenpeace to bring in its inflatables and a further 50 minutes in the choppy moonlit sea to intercept it.

Read the whole story, the author really knows how to recreate a narrative. Greenpeace chose this rig for the operation because it’s the only one expected to start drilling in the Arctic this year. They were not totally successful in stopping the rig, but plan to continue their harassment as the Leiv Eiriksson makes its way through the Mediterrenean to Greenland.

People are recognizing the value of collective action outside the political sphere.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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